In what’s been a disjointed, often confusing season, it was almost certain that even after only a week between scheduled games between Glasgow and Edinburgh there would be issues.
Two innocuous training bumps – one in what was supposed be a non-contact session – and a tweak in the weights room means that three Scotland internationals miss out this week having been scheduled to play last week’s postponed clash.
Oli Kebble of Glasgow and Jamie Ritchie – newly signed to his new multi-year contract extension – of Edinburgh took head knocks in training and sit out the game. Edinburgh skipper Stuart McInally suffered a neck problem at a weights session and isn’t going to be risked with the Six Nations in the headlights.
Third attempt to play first leg
If that wasn’t confusing enough, remember it was the freezing of the all-weather pitch at Scotstoun that has eventually resulted in this third attempt to play the first leg of the 1872 Cup, three weeks after the second leg.
Kebble took a knee to the head in what was meant to be unopposed training and is in concussion protocols. Danny Wilson has two more debutants on the bench in Tom Lambert, an Australian-born Scotland Under-20 cap, and full-back/centre Ollie Smith. Smith is a graduate of the Strathallan team that won the Scottish Schools Cup three years ago.
However Glasgow’s depleted reserves have been strengthened with the return of Leone Nakarawa and Rob Harley. The Fijian hasn’t played for almost a year, and Wilson has few expectations.
‘We should all be patient’
“I’m certainly hoping for a few touches of magic but we can’t get too carried away,” said the head coach. “I’m just really pleased that stage one is about to happen – that he takes part in this game and then stage by stage he’ll come back and hopefully he’ll be all the player that we’re hoping for. But I think we should be relatively patient.”
Wilson has stuck to his plans of blooding young players barely out of the Under-20s, starting young 10 Ross Thompson and wing Rufus McLean, as well as having Lambert and Smith in reserve.
“We backed that team last week and we’re not going to change it this week,” he said. “Ross and Rufus were geared up to play last week and it was unfortunate to have it called off so late.
“It’s a big game for them to come into, but we have to have one eye on the future.”
Spirits still high at Edinburgh
At Edinburgh Richard Cockerill restores Ben Toolis to the second row and Dave Cherry replaces McInally, but maintains that despite the lack of play of late, spirits are high at the club.
“Our season is very much alive,” he said. “We have games against Glasgow and Zebre in the next fortnight, we can get up the table and qualify for Europe next season.
“It seems we’re going to have a last 16 game against Europe, against Bordeaux or Toulouse, which would be a big game either way.
“We’re lucky to be playing and training considering what the rest of the world is doing. The club’s in a good spot and the boys are working hard and in good spirits.”
Bill Mata in demand
Having tied by Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie in the past week, only Fijian star Viliame Mata remains to be re-signed in the back row, and Cockerill agrees that will be a tricky one.
“Bill’s a pretty popular character around the world. We’re in discussions about what we can do for him to stay,” said the coach.
“Anyone would be happy to have Bill in their team across European rugby, even one of the Japanese teams; he would fit into those profiles very, very well.
“I’d be reluctant to let him leave, because you’re never going to replace that quality and X-Factor. If you look at (Marcel) Coetzee who’s leaving Ulster, who do they replace him with?
“That’s what it’s like with Bill and us. He’s an important player for us, so it’s ongoing around that situation.”
Glasgow Warriors: Huw Jones; Lee Jones, Nick Grigg, Robbie Fergusson, Rufus McLean; Ross Thompson, Ali Price; Aki Seuili, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Tom Lambert, Enrique Pieretto, Leone Nakarawa, Ron Harley, Jamie Dobie, Brandon Thomson, Ollie Smith.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Jack Blain, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Eroni Sau; Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom; Rory Sutherland, Dave Cherry, Simon Berghan; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Jamie Hodgson, Luke Crosbie, Henry Pyrgos, Nathan Chamberlain, James Johnstone.